John Laird says he’s running for state Senate

Former state assemblyman and UC Santa Cruz environmental studies professor John Laird announced his candidacy for state Senate on Monday.

Laird, a Democrat, held his speech at Rio Del Mar State Beach in Aptos.

He’s vying for the 15th Senate District seat vacated last week after Abel Maldonado was appointed lieutenant governor.

Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, on Friday announced his candidacy for the Senate post. Among his goals is reducing regulations to spur small businesses and forging a bipartisan solution to budget problems.

Laird, 60, vowed to help bring public education to a “prominence it once had,” as well as to create new jobs and better protect the environment by expanding green technology.

As the assemblyman representing Santa Cruz, Monterey and Santa Clara counties from 2002 until 2008, Laird said, the 82 bills he had signed into law show he’s willing to work in a bipartisan manner.

“The legislative gridlock over the budget has paralyzed state government and become a national embarrassment,” Laird said in a statement released from his speech. “ … The people have lost confidence in our government — and our state — and rightfully so.”

Laird was one of the first to openly serve as a gay man in the California Legislature.

As an assemblyman, Laird said, he “earned the respect of many players who normally agree on nothing.”

The Aptos Hills resident said his expertise includes the budget, environment and higher education.

He served as budget committee chair of the Assembly and helped deliver the first on-time budget in six years in 2006, he said.

His bills included legislation that directs the state to develop an investment plan in alternative and renewable fuels.

California needs to be efficient in developing green technology, he said.

Other legislation he worked on included the establishment of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy; restoration of community college health services; and expansion and clarification of civil rights protections.

Laird said he’d fight to keep state parks open and build the number of tourism-related jobs on the Central Coast.

“We have as many parks in this Senate district as almost any other — and they help the local hotels, restaurants and travel industry stay afloat,” he said.

Laird also said he believes foundations that the handling of private donations for public institutions — including California State Universities — should be transparent and allow the public to see how the money is being spent.